"Are you insane?" Tracey waited until they were in their room before she shouted.
Alli made herself comfortable on the bed before she spoke. "I'm perfectly sane and reasonable. Why should I choose a stranger to be my personal assistant when I have you around?"
"But I don't know anything about being a personal assistant!"
"I thought you were an actress?" Alli lifted her left eyebrow as she looked at Tracey.
"I am, but what does that have to do with it?... Oh, I get it. You are being a smart ass by telling me I can act like one." Tracey was red in her face.
"And there I thought you were just a pretty face." Alli placed her hands behind her head as she lay on the bed smiling at Tracey.
"That may be, but I'm also going to be your boss, so you need to show me a little respect. Maybe you should practice acting that part of it in the meantime."
Tracey clenched her teeth. "You're already my boss."
"It surely doesn't feel like it. Just listen to the way you speak to me. It feels more like we're caught in a lovers' quarrel most of the time… mmm… I'm sure most people think the same."
Tracey threw her hands up in the air as if asking for some higher help. "I'm supposed to act like we're lovers, so I'm sure it's fine if they think we're having a lovers' quarrel."
"I'm not prepared to have a lovers' quarrel if I only get the quarrel part and not the lover out of it. I think I'm getting the raw end of the deal here." Alli tried very hard not to burst out laughing as she observed Tracey's shocked face.
"There's just no pleasing you, is there?" Tracey was shaking her head in disbelief.
"Oh, I'm sure you can please me, but let's see how it goes in the office first," Alli replied in a soft, low voice.
Tracey looked even more confused. She wasn't sure if Alli really meant to give a sexual meaning to her words by her tone of voice or not. She decided it had to be her own wishful thinking.
"So, from tomorrow I'll be your personal assistant. What would my duties be, because I'm sure you don't want me to go around to your staff to find out what I'm supposed to do for you?"
'I can think of one specific duty you can perform right now.' Alli's thoughts were running wild, causing an ache to start in her lower abdomen. She cleared her throat before she spoke out loud though. "I'll basically be telling you exactly what to do when you do it. It will be easy enough with your desk standing in my office at the moment."
"Since when is a personal assistant's desk in the boss's office?"
"Since I'm taking this opportunity to re-decorate Tina's office while she's on leave. She deserves it after putting up with me all these years."
Tracey couldn't believe what was happening. Alli had an answer for everything, and it felt like they were going in circles. "I'm going downstairs. NCIS is on television in fifteen minutes and I want to get a cup of tea before I sit down."
"Maybe I should put a television in our bedroom. You seem to watch a lot of programs quite regularly. I've even wondered if I should put a bed in the TV room for you, but I think putting a television in the room might be the better idea."
Tracey felt like the room was getting too small for her. "No!" she shouted as she quickly walked towards the door before she spoke again. "There's no need to crowd the bedroom with a television. I like watching downstairs." Her hand was shaking as she opened the door to almost run out.
Alli smiled to herself. She could see the effect that she had on Tracey. At least that part of her plan was working; now she just had to figure out how she was going to get the answers that she needed about her father.
The next morning started like any other morning, with the exception that Tracey also got dressed for work. Elizabeth was very excited about being dropped off at school by Alli and her mother.
"Alli, can I come to work with you some day as well?" Elizabeth looked expectantly at Alli.
"Of course you can Kiddo. It would be great to have you there. Maybe we can arrange for the driver to bring you to the office one day after school next week. I'll show you around the building myself."
"Wow! That would be so cool. Did you hear that Mom? I'm going to visit you guys at work next week."
"Yes Angel, I heard. That's very kind of Alli." Tracey just glared sideways at Alli as she spoke.
When they stopped at Elizabeth's school, she swung open the back door and jumped out of the car. Tracey opened her door for Elizabeth to give her a hug and a kiss goodbye as usual. Elizabeth wanted to walk around the car to kiss Alli goodbye as well, but Alli stopped her.
"Don't bother coming around Kiddo, I'll just stretch over your mom." With these words Alli leaned over Tracey to accept Elizabeth's kiss. Alli smiled as she heard Tracey take a deep breath when she leaned over her. She deliberately lingered by ruffling Elizabeth's hair and telling her to have a good day at school. When she moved back, she allowed her arm to lightly scrape over Tracey's breasts, who in turn reacted like she had been given an electrical shock.
"Anything wrong?" Alli asked innocently while she started the car.
Tracey was once again caught in an internal struggle. She was almost sure that Alli's movement was deliberate, but at the same time she was sure that it couldn't be. "Nothing's wrong."
"Are you sure?" Alli asked with a faint smile on her face.
"I just told you nothing was wrong," Tracey responded with a hint of irritation in her voice.
Alli's smile increased as she turned her head back again. The rest of the drive to work took place in silence.
When Alli parked her car in her designated spot, she quickly got out to open the door for Tracey who mumbled a thank you as she got out. They walked to the elevator, which was right next to her parking spot. Alli produced a key, which she inserted into a slot on the outside panel.
"This is my private elevator. I have the only key for it, but it can be overridden manually if there's any problems."
Tracey had to admit to herself that she was quite impressed by Alli's office building and all the trimmings that came with it. The elevator doors opened into Alli's office, which was another breathtaking sight. It was bigger than any office Tracey had ever seen, and she was sure that it had enough space to fit eight desks. It also had the most amazing view of Table Mountain
"This is your desk for the time being," Alli indicated a smaller desk situated not too far from hers. "It's got all new stationary and anything else that you might need, but if there's anything missing, just speak to Tumi. She's a brilliant secretary, and her office is just through those doors." Alli pointed towards two huge mahogany doors.
"And if you need to use the ladies room, it's the third cupboard door on the right. I wanted the comfort of having my own bathroom in my office, but I wanted it to be inconspicuous."
"This office is definitely you," Tracey couldn't help but say.
"I was going to spend most of my time in this office, so I wanted it to be a place where I would feel comfortable."
Tracey walked towards her desk and looked for a place to put her handbag before she sat down. While Alli was busy going through her messages, Tracey took the opportunity to switch on her notebook and to go through everything on her desk, but couldn't find anything that needed doing. She looked up to speak to Alli, but her words never made it past her lips. The sight before her made her swallow, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from it.
Alli had spectacles on as she was typing on the keypad of her notebook. Every now and then she would look at her messages again and continue typing. Tracey continued watching Alli as she worked and almost jumped when Alli's office phone rang. She turned away quickly, while she hoped that Alli didn't catch her watching.
"Morning Tumi. Yes I know, I'm sorry that I didn't let you know I was in, but I got distracted when I read my messages." Alli looked at Tracey and smiled as she spoke to her secretary. "Yes, I will be attending Clive's meeting, but you don't have to worry about keeping me on my schedule. Tracey has agreed to help me out for the time being while Esmeralda's away." Alli held Tracey's gaze while she was listening to Tumi again. "Yes, I agree. I am a lucky woman to have a future life partner like her. Thank you Tumi."
Tracey blushed as she heard Alli's reply to Tumi, but tried to get out of the uncomfortable situation by speaking. "Ummm… I'm still not sure what I need to do."
"If you look on your monitor, you will see an icon for my appointment book. I have just updated it with the meetings that I need to attend today. For now, I need you to make sure that I meet all my appointments, but when you go into each appointment, you'll find special instructions for them. Those are notes on things that I need to have done for those appointments as well as things that I need to remember to take with me and so on. Lunch is between one and two o'clock, but I normally spend it with clients or have lunch meetings."
The day went by very slowly for Tracey, because she had very little to do. Alli took care of everything that she needed for her appointments herself, and Tracey was left alone when Alli went out to the various meetings. Tracey did take the opportunity to leave the building at lunchtime. She made her way to the public library, which was only five minutes walk away from Alli's office building.
Once at the library Tracey tried to find any information she could on Alli's father. She realised though that it was going to take a long time to research the Palmer family, seeing that all newspapers from so many years ago were still archived in the old fashioned way. Her search for the day didn't turn up very much, but at least she got started.
Tracey got back to the office just after two o'clock. At her desk was a take away Greek salad and an orange juice, but Alli was nowhere in sight. Tracey took hold of the orange juice and was just about to have a sip when she heard a loud bang behind her. She jumped with shock and spilled half the juice over her blouse.
After Alli slammed the bathroom door behind her, she walked straight to Tracey's desk. "So, you decided to come back. Here I thought you might be hungry, but then you disappear." Alli's disappointment at not finding Tracey in her office when she came back made her unreasonable. It had only been one morning, but Alli was already getting used to seeing Tracey sit at her desk when she walked into her office.
Tracey was trying to clean her blouse with some tissues out of her bag, but it didn't prevent her from getting upset with Alli. "For crying out loud, do I ever do anything right! It was lunchtime and I went for a walk. I've been in this damn office all morning with barely anything to do. You don't desperately need me, because you're doing everything yourself anyway, so why on earth would you be upset with me not being here? And look at the result of your tirade!" Tracey started unbuttoning her blouse. "I hope you have a hairdryer in that bathroom of yours," Tracey went on to say as she walked towards the bathroom while taking off her blouse. By the time she disappeared behind the door, Tracey's blouse was off and Alli could see the bra that she was wearing from the back. For the first time that day, Alli was speechless and her mouth very dry. As she turned to walk to her desk, she couldn't get the image of Tracey's supple back out of her mind.
'How on earth does she turn every situation around on me? Wasn't I the one that was upset with her a minute ago?' Alli just sat at her desk and stared at Table Mountain like she was expecting it to answer her thoughts.
It took thirty minutes before Tracey emerged from the bathroom. Her blouse was back to normal, and to Alli's disappointment, back on Tracey's body as well. Tracey on the other hand didn't look back to normal at all. If looks could kill, Alli was sure that Tracey would've been the death of her.
"I'm sorry." Alli spoke while still seated behind her desk. She knew that she had screwed up again by becoming irrational over nothing.
"You should try to keep your temper in check. One day you'll regret its consequences," Tracey said bitingly.
"I'm trying to apologise here."
"An apology doesn't always fix everything."
"Well, what do you want me to do then?"
"Give me something to do. I'm going to go insane from sitting around doing nothing."
"Most people would love to sit around doing nothing. Doesn't that notebook I got you have some games on it?"
"I'm not most people. I don't sit around with nothing to do all day and enjoy it. Neither do I find playing computer games all day long amusing. If you don't have anything for me to do, then I'm going home, because I'm sure that this was just for your amusement." Tracey started getting out of her chair to grab her bag.
"OK, I'm sorry again. I didn't mean to insult you. I do need someone to help me, but I find it difficult to entrust things to other people."
"Then what am I doing here?"
"I'd much rather trust you than someone I only know from seeing. Please don't go. Esmerelda used to be my right hand. She attended my meetings with me and knew what I wanted before I even asked for it."
Tracey felt a twinge of jealousy. Alli spoke about Esmerelda as if she was the best thing since sliced bread. "Well, I warned you that I didn't know anything about being a personal assistant, and it sounds like Esmerelda is even more than that."
"Yes, she is great, but I know what we can do. I will take you with me wherever I go, to all my meetings and all my appointments. That way, you can learn on the run and be there when I need you." Alli smiled about her plan.
"That's probably the best way to learn, but how long will Esmerelda be away?"
"Her mom is very sick, so at this time it's indefinite."
Days came and went as the new routine fell into place. Tracey was a fast learner and soon became Alli's right hand. It made her feel that she might have actually found something that she was really good at. She started thinking about the possibilities of a steady personal assistant job once Alli allowed her to leave, but that meant that she still needed to solve the Palmer family secret. She used every lunchtime to go to the library and was starting to think that it was a dead end, but that changed about six weeks after her research started.
It was the Friday before they were going to the farm to visit Charlie and Megan again. Tracey was already nervous, because she knew what she had to do on the farm. When Alli told her about the planned trip, she also told her that it was time to finalise their plan. If Tracey couldn't get Megan interested in her, she needed to create a compromising situation. Tracey once again tried to convince Alli that there was no way that Charlie and Megan would break up over something like that, but Alli's reply was that no such relationship existed and that she was growing tired of waiting for Tracey to do what she was supposed to.
Tracey was once again going through old newspapers when she came across a newspaper name that she never knew existed. It was mentioned in The Cape Times that The People's Voice had to close its doors due to bankruptcy. The article mentioned that the newspaper had lost one too many court cases in which it got sued for slander. The last court case that the newspaper lost was against Andrew Palmer. The newspaper was known for printing anything and everything. According to The Cape Times article, The People's Voice reporters had a tendency to fabricate part of their stories and that it should've rather been a gossip magazine instead.
Tracey eventually found the records of The People's Voice and started looking for the article that was published about Andrew Palmer. She first came across the retraction article in which it was said that the newspaper made a mistake in falsely accusing Andrew Palmer of killing someone in a hit and run. The daughter, Charlene, who according to the reporter accused Mr Palmer, was nowhere to be found and the reporter admitted to fabricating the story. That however did not save the newspaper from being sued and eventual bankruptcy. When Tracey read the words, she went ice cold. This could be what she was looking for. The article was written in the year that Angela said Mr Palmer got rid of his car.
Tracey completely forgot about the time as she feverishly kept on looking for the original article. The article heading was what caught her eye.
"Daughter Accuses Andrew Palmer Of Murder"
As Tracey read the article, she knew that it held the answer that she was looking for. The article mentioned that Charlene Palmer witnessed the hit and run in which Mr Palmer killed Julia Brighton.
Tracey was overjoyed and sad at the same time. If this meant what she thought it did, Alli would have to let go of her plan to hurt Charlie, which meant that she wouldn't have a need for Tracey anymore. She was sure that Alli only threatened to take Elizabeth away because she didn't want Tracey to walk out on her and spoil her plan. This would mean that Alli would let them go, and she could put as much distance between them as she possibly could. At the thought of not seeing Alli ever again Tracey almost felt like crying, but she knew it was something that she needed to do as soon as possible. Even though she tried to hate Alli, it felt instead like her love was growing.
Alli was getting impatient as she waited for Tracey to get back from her lunch. She decided that they should go home early to get an early start of their drive to Charlie and Megan's farm, because she wanted to speak to her sister as soon as possible.
She knew that she didn't want to hurt her sister any more, but she still needed to find out what really happened all those years ago. She also needed her sister's advice, because she didn't know what to do about Tracey anymore. She didn't have any experience with women and although she could see that she had an effect on Tracey, she also couldn't break through the wall that Tracey erected around herself. She knew the only thing that kept Tracey with her was the ultimatum she gave her about Elizabeth, and the only thing that sometimes allowed Alli to hold Tracey or even kiss her, was the lie that they were living in order to hurt Charlie.
Alli realised that she had got herself into one almighty mess and that her short temper made some of the situations even worse. She had even sent her personal assistant on a three-month holiday to create the situation which allowed her to have Tracey around her most of the day. She had to admit that it was pretty selfish of her, but at that point, the idea seemed brilliant. Unfortunately it hadn't worked as well as she had hoped for. Although they worked well together, Tracey was still distant.
When Tracey walked into the office, Alli went ballistic. "Where the hell have you been? I've been trying your mobile phone for the last half hour! I wanted to leave early today."
"I've gone to the library like I have done every single day for the last few weeks and if you bothered to tell me about your plans, I wouldn't have gone," Tracey immediately shot back at Alli.
"If you were on time like you normally are, I wouldn't be upset. Have you checked what time it is?" Alli was throwing things into her briefcase as she was packing up.
When Tracey looked at her watch, she realised that she lost track of time. She was so excited about her findings, that she didn't realise she was almost forty-five minutes late. "I'm sorry. I lost track of time. I'll be ready to leave in five minutes." Tracey quickly packed up her things.
Alli relaxed a bit as she watched Tracey packing up. She was upset with herself for once again allowing her temper to take over.
They got into the elevator together and Alli hit the button for the parking level. They only went down about three levels when the power suddenly went out and the elevator got to an abrupt stop.
"Oh no!" Tracey shouted.
"Don't worry. The backup generator will kick in soon. When these power outages started three months ago, I bought a half a million rand generator to run my whole building. It unfortunately had to come in from Germany, so it was on the water for eight weeks. It got installed about two weeks ago," Alli explained in an even tone, hoping that it would calm Tracey who was looking very nervous.
Alli's idea seemed to work. "Half a million rand for a generator? It must be as big as a house!"
Alli laughed. "No, it's only the size of a small car. I had to build a soundproof room for it, because it makes so much noise."
"Wow, I'd love to see that, but shouldn't it be working yet?" Tracey asked nervously.
Alli didn't want to admit that she was getting a bit worried herself. "I'm sure it's going to kick in just now."
They waited in silence for almost five minutes before Alli started fiddling with the emergency panel. She tried everything, but nothing worked.
Tracey could hear Alli's attempts. "Why isn't it working?"
"I don't know," Alli replied.
"What do you mean you don't know? This is your building and your company. Didn't they test the generator when they installed it?" Tracey's nervousness was turning into irrational thinking.
"I don't hold everybody's hand to make sure they do their jobs properly! I was told that it worked!"
"If I had to spend a half a million rand on something, I would make sure that it worked properly!" Tracey's started to sound hysterical.
"You're being unreasonable!" Alli was shocked at Tracey's behaviour.
"Not less unreasonable than you are. This is probably another one of your schemes to keep me from running off isn't it? What is your plan this time? You already threatened me by using my child, what else do you think you're going to use? I have nothing else, or did you forget where I came from. Do you want to scare me into keeping to your plan? Do you not think my child is motivation enough for me? What kind of a mother do you think I am? But I have news for you anyway. I found out what your precious father did so many years ago. He didn't die of a broken heart; he died of a guilty conscience. You should ask Charlie who Julia Brighton was, because she saw your father kill her. You don't need me anymore, because Charlie didn't do anything. I want to take Elizabeth and get as far away from you as possible. This job might have helped me out of a difficult financial situation, but you're making my life hell! Please let us go, I beg you or do you want to hold me to do more of your dirty work. Who else do you want to destroy…"
The slap was followed by dead silence. Tracey held onto her cheek where Alli's hand connected with it.
"I'm sorry," Alli said softly, "but you were hysterical."
"Oh," was all that Tracey could say while she was still holding her cheek.
At that moment, the power came back online and the elevator started moving. Not a word was spoken when they got into the car. Tracey just kept on giving quick sideways glances to see if the emotionless expression on Alli's face changed, but it didn't. The drive home was also in complete silence until Alli stopped the car in front of the house.
"By the way," Alli said without looking at Tracey, "I could have saved you a lot of time at the library. I've known about those newspaper articles for the last four weeks. I don't need you to dig into my family closet, I pay people to do that for me, but then again, I pay you as well don't I?" With that, Alli got out of the car leaving a stunned Tracey behind.
As Alli walked up the steps to the front door, she knew that everything was lost. Tracey's opinion of her was even lower than the one Alli originally had of Charlie, and to make things worse, she couldn't blame her for it.
Continued in part 11